Mythbusters: The Career Management Edition

I love the Discovery Channel show Mythbusters where the co-hosts “debunk curious notions and old wives tales”.  As a career coach I talk with hundreds of Darden alumni and I often must dispel false notions about career progression or conducting a job search.  Here are some common myths and why they aren’t necessarily true:

Myth:  You must hide your age when job searching.
The real issue is whether employers blatantly discriminate based on age. Knowing that employers will eventually find out your age anyway, figure out ways to debunk their myths about your age! Recruiters cite a variety of concerns about older candidates including higher pay requirements, ability to learn new things, physical stamina, and longevity in the position.  Older professionals must work harder to show they have the relevant skills, energy, and cultural fit to win a job.  Steve Hoard MBA ’74 faced a job search in 2011 and rather than covering up his age, he embraced it.  He showed potential employers the many ways he had kept his skills and attitude fresh over the years, including continuous learning, getting professional certifications, and embracing social media.  All that combined with a clear objective, solid research and persistent networking landed Steve a new job in record time.

Myth:  LinkedIn is only for job seekers.
LinkedIn’s 250 million members can stay in touch with their professional network, participate in affinity groups (like the Darden group), prospect for new business (especially good for sales professionals and entrepreneurs), conduct basic company research and more.  Do you know you can easily find your fellow Darden alumni using LinkedIn’s Network->FindAlumni feature?  As long as we’re debunking myths… no, you don’t need to pay for the premium version of LinkedIn for the service to be useful, and yes, you can control the access around your network (read LinkedIn’s Official blog to see how to control your privacy).

Myth:  You need to hire a professional resume writer.
I have yet to meet a Darden grad who could not craft an excellent and well-targeted resume with a bit of coaching and the benefit of a few good samples.  Before you spend the money, check out the detailed Resume section of our Job Search Toolkit.

Myth:  You can never return to a company you left.
It is possible to return, if, a few conditions are met.  First, consider your motivations for leaving in the first place.  If you’re positive about the company’s prospects, you know you have the skills to do the job and you liked the culture the first time around, it’s worth investigating.  If you left on good terms with the manager and team, and if you’ve kept in contact with the right colleagues you’ll have a better chance of opening the door for a return.

Myth:  You will have to relocate to land your next big job.
Job-related relocation can be daunting for both the candidate and the employer.   Ted Bills MBA ’06 turned down a number of interesting internal job opportunities at GE over the last five years because they required him to move cities.  While he did aspire to a higher-level role, he had already made a decision to stay put in Minneapolis where he wants to raise his family.   The expertise he developed in pricing at GE made him a good candidate for a large local firm, Boston Scientific.  He landed a job as Pricing Manager with increased responsibility and the move sets him on a path in the fast-paced healthcare industry.    Geography can be one of the more puzzling aspects of career management… whether to seek a better job that is located elsewhere, or maximize job options in one’s current location.  Where you want/need to live is a very personal decision that should be considered as part of your short and long term career goals…read more about geography in our ACS blog from last July.

Myth:  You must find your own mentor.
Finding a mentor is more a function of being ready for the right learning relationship at the right time in your career.  In other words, you can’t force the fit and it takes more than a simple request to engage in a meaningful mentor partnership.  Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In has a great chapter (‘Are You My Mentor?’) on the do’s and don’ts of seeking a mentor.

Myth:  Landing a new job will take a few weeks.
Myth:  You can’t land a job during the holidays.
Based on feedback from hundreds of alumni and ACS Survey data we know a realistic timeframe for job search is at least 6 months.  Before you land you’ll need a thoughtful plan, a set of well-researched target companies, persistent networking, and typically weeks of interviewing, follow-ups and finally negotiations.  This process can sometimes slow during the holidays, but hiring doesn’t stop.  We’ve seen plenty of alumni land in December after several months of effort, or, land in March or April having started outreach during the holiday stretch between November and the New Year.

Myth:  Headhunters are the key to getting hired.
Myth:  You have to apply to LOTS of online job openings to get a new job.
The real key to job search success is not the volume of opportunities you pursue, or answering a headhunter’s call.  Rather, it’s having a clear objective, defining and researching a set of target companies, networking effectively, and nailing the interviews.   Consult our Job Search Toolkit for resources on all aspects of the search process, follow us on twitter, and contact us us for free one-on-one counseling.  We’ll help you uncover the myths in your plan and set a successful course of action.

Marty Speight MBA ‘96, Associate Director of the Armstrong Center for Alumni Career Services at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

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